Life was stressful enough—then COVID-19 added another layer of anxiety to it. As the world shut down, tensions rose with daily case counts and death tolls, and the inability to connect with friends and family because of physical distancing restrictions.
This is when four University of Toronto Scarborough students—Lamia Firasta, Siena Jang, Siham Karamali, and Sylvie Stojanovski—came together to create Creative Flow, an interactive virtual mindfulness art workshop and sharing circle series to help UTSC students, staff, and faculty “connect with one another, share their COVID-19 stories, and get into their creative flow.”
Siena Jang, Creative Flow’s marketing and social media director and a Mental Health Studies and Performance Arts student, saw a way to help: “I felt there was a need for mental health and art supports around the campus and I felt there was a lack of creative spaces—and just a space for people to heal.”
Lamia Firasta, a Cooperative Mental Health Studies student, minoring in Creative Writing, was also looking for ways to provide support and a creative outlet for people struggling during a very traumatic time. When Lamia and Siham saw the U of T COVID-19 Student Engagement Award, they saw an opportunity: “I felt a calling that art would be a great way to connect with my community,” says Lamia, Creative Flow’s director of finance and marketing. “Throughout the pandemic there was so much information overload on social media, on the news, even talking to people. I wanted to contribute positively.”
Making space for mindful expression
The four students received a U of T COVID-19 Student Engagement Award to bring Creative Flow to the U of T Scarborough community. The goal of the initiative is to create an inclusive space and dedicated time to create together through the arts while being mindful.
Through the FLOW series, the co-founders used various artistic mediums to focus on themes of fulfillment, living, oblivion, and wonder. Participants explored mindfulness, their emotions, and creativity through online instruction. The current series, which is ending in August, has had strong turnout with people from around the globe joining in the collective healing space.
“I felt there was a need for mental health and art supports around the campus and I felt there was a lack of creative spaces—and just a space for people to heal.”
While creativity allows for healing and mindfulness, the Creative Flow founders also see it as an outlet for people to voice their opinions. Creativity has the power to connect, and change people’s outlook, reminding us that we are more alike than we think. At the end of the series, participants will have the opportunity to share their work in a virtual gallery. The goal is to continue the Creative Flow series, creating inclusive spaces for all people.
“When you encounter a lot of negative news and negative things around the world, you tend to carry that baggage on you,” says Siena. “It was a good space for people to sit down, pause, and pay attention to the joyful and happy parts of their lives.”